Sunday, December 9, 2012

Which Packer Team Will Show Up?

Green Bay Press-Gazette Photo
The game against the Giants two weeks ago left me in a very foul mood.  You figure that a team will lose some games in a season.  Every team since the 1972 Dolphins has done so.  But the Packers in 2012 have found some creative and different ways to lose games this year.  The opening day loss to the 49ers was just a case of getting beat by what was, on that day anyway, a better team.  The Seattle "Fail Mary" loss was one for the ages - but in a bad way.  We will be talking about that game 20 years from now, the way the Bears fans still talk about the Majkowski-Sharpe "Instant Replay" game from 1989 (except the call in this case really was a travesty, unlike the call in the "Instant Replay" game).  The Indianapolis "Epic Collapse" game was shocking and disgusting at the time, but now that the Colts are 8-4, we can see that they are a much better team than we assumed.

But the Giants game was just an old-fashioned ass-kicking.  The Giants beat the Packers in every facet of the game, and it wasn't even close.  How bad was it?  Kevin Seifert of ESPN gives the ugly details.

The Giants may or may not "have the Packers' number" (whatever that means), but they have shown repeatedly over the last 6 seasons that they know how to exploit the weaknesses in the Packers' team.  The thing that made me more angry than sad is to read that the Packers' players said that they played the game without emotion.  This has been repeated in many venues, including   I can excuse the players for making physical mistakes (like taking a bad angle on a tackle), or for not being good enough (like Tramon Williams trying to cover Hakeem Nicks) a lot easier than I can excuse them for not playing with emotion.  The division lead is on the line, after a long, hard slog to get back in first place in the NFC North.  The Packers had two playoff losses to the same Giants in the last 5 seasons, interrupting what looked like Super Bowl runs.  The Packers (arguably) play better on the road than at home.  And then they come out and get man-handled, and their excuse is that they "played without emotion?"

Anyway, this left the Packers trailing the Bears by a game for the division lead, with 5 games to go.  The toughest remaining game for both teams is the week 14 matchup between the two, which in many scenarios will decide the division.  But given the beat-down administered by the Giants, could anyone be faulted for fearing that the Packers would drop another game somewhere along the way, making the game with the Bears irrelevant?  That, I have to admit, is what I was worried about going into the Vikings game.

And there were moments during that game when it looked like that was exactly what would happen.  After getting off to a 10-0 start ("hey, this is going to be easy after all") thanks to an unbelievable catch in the end zone by James Jones, the game started slipping away.  When the Packers started practicing their "Olé!" tackling technique on Adrian Peterson, another 10 point lead was blown, and the Packers trailed 14-10 at halftime.  It was about to get worse, when Morgan Burnett (MVP of the game, according to my daughter) pulled in the first of his two interceptions to cut off a Minnesota scoring drive. 

Of course, the Packers went on to win the game, so everything was good.  On top of that, the Bears lost in overtime to Seattle, and the 49ers lost to the Rams in overtime.  Which put the Packers back in first place in the division, and got me to thinking about the possibility of passing up the 49ers for the second seed and the bye.  Until my daughter brought me back to earth by pointing out that it is crazy to think about that, with the Packers looking as inconsistent as they have this year. 

So which Packer team is the real one?  The team that looks great in beating the Texans?  Or the team that gets crushed by the Giants and blows a huge lead to the Colts?  If the "good" Packers are the real team, this is the time of year for them to step up.  We will start to find out, tonight, against the Lions.  The Lions obviously have some talent, and the Packers obviously have lots of injuries.  But if this is a team that is going to contend for a championship, there is no excuse, this time of year, at home, for not going out and taking care of business.

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